Thesis Title

Increasing Control: Watercolor Painting an Students with Developmental Disabilities

Graduation Date

Summer 1997

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


This research paper looked at the problem of how to change locus of control orientation for individuals with developmental disabilities from external to internal. A change in LOC orientation would give these individuals more control and independence in their lives while also raising self-esteem. It was hypothesized that the art therapy modality, specifically watercolor painting could help to facilitate the development of an internal LOC in individuals with developmental disabilities.

Seven individuals with developmental disabilities participated in this study over the course of a four month period. The sequence of watercolor painting was introduced with techniques presented so the students were assured success. Using the watercolor medium abstractly made this art technique appropriate for high school age students. Behavioral observations were collected before and after the watercolor intervention.

The results of this study were positive as most of the students exhibited an internal LOC as they chose to paint on their own initiative after the removal of external prompts. The students used the skills and techniques learned over the four months. Limitations of this study are discussed.